Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NBA Finals History: Why King James Will Win His Crown

 There are only a few things that are certain in life. The sun rises, we fall in and out of love, people die, Yankees/NYGiants fans are ignorant, and history always repeats itself. 
The NBA is no different. You can’t run away from history.  Teams always have a “Ceiling” that they need to get through, be it another team or a mental block. There has always been a “hierarchy” in the league. Perceived or not, I feel it is real. The "sports gods" always follow certain patterns, or sports physics. “The Law of Averages” is a great indicator, but not always true.
        There are anomalies everywhere. As PapaShaw used to say when a guy comes up for the sox and he is about OH for his last 16 with runners in scoring position: “He’s Due” he would say. It used to be so annoying but more often than not, he was right, Jody Reed would hit a base clearing double. I said More often than not. Sports averages are just that; averages. You flip a quarter 100x and you THINK you’ll get 50/50 but you wont always. But you perceive it to be. In reality at any given 100 there is 50/50, not the First 100.
But there is always History to teach us; to show us probability, but probability using fact. What better way form to build an argument for Lebron than using history?  I remember watching Lebron on ESPN in High school. He was the first most HYPED player whose High School career intersected with the boom of 24 hours sports piranhas. Lebron is a physical anomaly. King James, a 6-8 250 power guard with skills of a ninja, the speed of Pheidippides, and the power of Hercules. He loves defense and is dominant on both ends like all of his elite predecessors. Able to defend any position at any time, as well as able to pick the pocket of the best pgs or block KG, he is the perfect weapon on defense.
Since the 80’s, there has always been teams trying to push through another teams to get through. Contenders always have a “mental hurdle” to get through. Larry Bird had to get through eventual Champ 76ers just to make it to the finals. Phily 76’ers and Celtics took turns from 80/81 - 83/84 to represent the east vs Lakers. After 76ers went off of the upper echelon of the east, the Pistons emerged as top contenders to the Celtics Eastern Dominance. The mid 80’s Pistons could not get through theCeltics losing in the playoffs twice in 3 years against the Celtics, including87 ECF. When the 88 Pistons finally defeated a worn down old Celtics team, inthe ECF, they went on to Lose in the Finals to LA Lakers. Next Season 88-89Pistons return to the finals to defeat The same Lakers squad. 89-90 PistonsRepeat as champions, this time against Portland who, coincidentally, had Lostto the Lakers in the previous Playoffs, got lucky and avoided The Lakers on theirway to the finals. 90-91 proved that Portland was not ready as the Lost to LAin WCF. During the Same span 88-91 There was a new team on the rise:MichaelJordan’s Bulls. Once The 88 Pistons had moved on from the Celtics and werecompeting for titles, they were also being challenged by the Bulls. Defeatingthe Bulls in 88,89 and 90. (89 and 90 ECF) When the Bulls finally got throughthe Pistons in 91 (the Infamous “Detroit walkout game”), they were “BattleTested” and ready as they beat Magic’s Last Contending Team in 1991. (Laker haddefeated Portland in the ECF on the way to Finals).  92 Trailblazers defeat 8th Seed LALakers to get over that mental hurdle, only to have the unfortunately luck ofrunning into Jordan in the Finals.
As you see, there is a pattern toteams trying to get through a “block” or “hurdle”. Once they make it through,their chances greatly improve. The Basketball Gods look greatly upon teams thatmake it through a challenge that was once insurmountable. When you go throughtrials and tribulations, you are usually rewarded for your personal success andvictories.
It is no different for teams in thefinals. If you look back in the HISTORY of the league, Almost every timea team Returns to the finals the year after losing, they win. Starting waaaaaayback in 1954 The Syracuse Nationals Returned to the finals and were victoriousthe year after losing to the Minneapolis Lakers in the finals. The 72 Knicksbeat The Lakers in a rematch of the previous championship were LA had won. The79 Sonics Defeated the Bullets in a Rematch of the 78 final. The 82-83 76ersalso won in a rematch after losing to LA. Then La did the same feat beatingCeltics in 85 a year after losing to Boston 84-85. I did say almost. The LALakers lost 8 Finals appearances spread out over 10yrs!(61-62 to 69-70). TheJazz also lost 2 yrs in a row to The Bulls in 97-98.
This all ties me to Lebron. He wentthrough the biggest sports media scrutiny that I can remember in this, thetwitter era. “The decision” may not have been the best business decision, aswas the numerous games he supposedly had “choked”. We attacked Lebron for notattacking, took shots at him for not taking shots. He has only won 3 straightMVPs. Last year vs Dallas was not only a shock to LBJ but was also a wakeupcall. I think he gets it now. His personal victory over Boston did more thanjust move them into the Finals. Yeah, Heat beat Boston last year in the semisbut we had the whole “Rondo injury” excuse. Besides that, “Wade won it”Lebrondid play well against the C’s last yr. We just didn’t notice. He couldn’t doanything right and DWade couldn’t do anything wrong. Even after he too downRondo like Dan Severn, we still focused on Lebron. We were all “right” duringthe Dallas series. But he hadn’t learnedyet. This victory vs Boston (his chief personal rival) as he dominated the seriesproved, most importantly to himself, that he has what it takes. This kind ofpsychological advantage for a player is huge. This is bigger than PatrickEwing’s legendary-you-know-what. This enables the player to be able to makethat leap and become what we thought he was (Dennis Green Voice). The Celticswere desperate for one more shot. 3 Hall of famers and Rondo could not holdback destiny as The Basketball Gods invites Father time over to watch game 7.
 I have always looked at Lebron as a mixbetween Larry Bird, Magic, and Larry Johnson. Grandmama was the first powerplayer of our generation to show Guard skills while wrecking the rim and beingstreaky at the 3 point line. A little bit of Magic for his ability to createfor everyone around him as well as score when he needed to, and Larry for hisVision and anticipation. How often does Lebron make a pass that sets up anassist? He sees the floor almost in a 4th dimensional way the waythat Larry Bird and Magic did. He is not the go to scorer like Jordan, but heshows flashes of that.
The Heat will win based on the Lawsof Averages and the Basketball Gods granting eternal greatness to those whodeserve it. On the court, LBJ is the Best player on BOTH ends of the court.Durant is just the best scorer and he will be covered by Lebron a lot. Lebronshould also be able to take advantage that KD is not a GREAT defender. IF Lebrongoes to the post more (like he should) it may be too much for Durant, Then youmust but Ibaka on Lebron and hope he doesn’t eat him up. So then who coversBosh? Perkins? Mismatch, Heat advantage there. This will set off a lot ofdominos that I am not sure that the Thunder are ready for. Wade has yet to playgreat since Pacers series and he should get out of his shell here with a sizeadvantage on Westbrook. Look for Sefalosha to Guard Wade when on court. Problemis, he is not a part of the Thunder’s best lineup. Bosh is better than Ibakaand his outside shooting SHOULD disable Ibakasshotblocking to a point. ThunderBench a little stronger but I take Heat top 6-7 players over Thunder top 6-7.Spoelstra gets the coaching advantage not only heads up with Scott Brooks, buthaving “been there before”. That is theme of this blog and “having been therebefore” has proven to be very advantageous throughout the history of this greatSport. History is on the Heat’s side.

- Jason Shaw